Does literary fiction need public funding?

A recent report by Arts Council England has suggested that literary fiction should get public funding. But surely writers have survived for centuries without public funding and if a book is well written and sells then why would it need public funding?

Henry Sutton, senior lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia believes it should. In fact he argues that all fiction should be heavily funded, because studies show that reading fiction helps people to understand others, it develops empathy and understanding about how other people think and behave.Literary fiction gets to the roots of the human condition and across class, race and time. It’s about diversity and inclusion. He doesn’t think that every writer deserves to be a writer but feels strongly that more people should read. A literary culture needs to be developed from the grassroots with more engagement and support. Reading is a fun activity, and a form of escape from the tough lives we lead and a means to relax. It should be encouraged and we need to look at ways to encourage it.

Author Jilly Cooper disagrees with Henry Sutton. She wrote her first romance novel in 1975, long before Tesco and Asda began flogging off cheap books and the big Amazon came into being. She needed to make ends meet and writing gave her an income. An income, what is that? Jilly was successful because there were far fewer romance novels on the market. She simply didn’t have the level of competition we authors face today and books were priced accordingly. Today however, readers expect books to be cheaply priced or preferably free. We’ve seen a race to the bottom. Our skills are undervalued. It’s a giveaway culture in the literary world. Anyone can publish and nobody is checking grammar or writing style. It’s a free for all situation on Amazon. Our public libraries are disappearing, once great cathedrals of reading and this both Jilly Cooper and Henry Sutton do agree on.

My latest book engages the reader in the 1950s when choices for women were limited. When Henry Sutton talks about empathy and the human condition my book “Every Mother’s Fear” perfectly brings to focus exactly what he means. I believe that we should read about the past to understand the present, where we are and where we’re going and I hope my book does just that.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Every-Mothers-Fear-Shocking-motherhood-ebook/dp/B078JX8559/

New Year bucket lists and resolutions

New Year is upon us once again and it’s time to reassess our lives, tweak the bucket list, write some New Year’s resolutions and revamp the diet. I’ve always found it a depressing time of year with the thought of dreary January and February to come. It’s also a favoured time of year to dump men – out with the old and in with the new, is my motto. So at the stroke of midnight when that irritating little folk tune Auld Lang Syne begins to play I’m looking for a way to begin that tricky conversation and extricate myself from the relationship. Not this year though. I was happy to smooch and snog my new fella under the glitter ball of an upstairs club in Hastings Old Town, the Black Market VIP. A quirky band called Kitten and The Hip were playing. There were strands of hip hop,jazz, swing and R&B. They were on the X Factor in 2014. Simon Cowell thought they were father and daughter but Ashley Slater and Scarlett Quinn are in fact husband and wife. He’s 53 and she’s 28. Known as Kitten Scarlett was dressed in a yellow shell suit. It was a great evening and various age groups came along. By midnight the room was full of dancers including an old raver strutting across the dance floor, who pulled various young ladies into an eclectic duet.

Lack of sleep and nursing a hangover I’m reviewing my bucket list. It includes going to a football match and the Grand Prix. They aren’t events I particularly want to do but things that must be done before I die. The last time I reassessed my bucket list was when I turned 50. With the menopause approaching time was running out. I booked a holiday to Salt Lake City, Las Vegas and Yellowstone. I ended up writing a romantic comedy based on this trip, called “Holiday.” It’s a twist of Bill Bryson and Bridget Jones Diary. This year I’m going to Cuba and the East Coast of America (Boston and Plymouth.) I’ll be blogging about these trips and giving you plenty of travel tips.

“Holiday” is available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/HOLIDAY-Laugh-out-loud-romantic-Joanna-Warrington-ebook/dp/B01MXYJJ3V/https://www.amazon.com/HOLIDAY-Laugh-out-loud-romantic-Joanna-Warrington-ebook/dp/B01MXYJJ3V/

And if you live in the Hastings and Bexhill area and enjoy gigs check out Barry Hilton’s new website:

http://hastingsmusicscene.com

Hastings Music scene

The shocking rise in stillbirths in England

Around 700,000 babies are born in England each year and of these 1000 unexpectedly die, as stillbirths or are left with brain injury following a traumatic birth. An NHS backed review has revealed that in as many as 80% of cases improvements in care could have prevented the deaths. Jeremy Hunt has announced that the government will be looking into changing the law to allow coroners to investigate full-term stillbirths – currently they cannot do this, with some parents saying deaths have been classified as stillbirths to avoid the need for an inquest.

Stillbirth is a tragic experience for parents to go through and the mental impact on the mother can be devastating. The joy of birth is met with the crushing sadness of death. Years ago I thought I told that my first baby wouldn’t survive the birth. It’s like looking down a kaleidoscope and seeing a happy future, making plans and looking forward to all the normal things that parents do and then suddenly you are planning the reverse – a funeral. I remember this feeling of limbo carrying on my daily life, working and socializing for a couple of weeks until the planned caesarian when I would deliver a dead baby. It was like carrying a tiny coffin in your body. The bump was there, people were still making comments and wishing me well but inside my body was a fading light. I was the life support machine, sustaining a life but as soon as that baby entered the world it couldn’t be a part of that world, it wasn’t meant to be, it’s life only existed in that womb and that was how it was meant to be. I couldn’t grapple with the idea of a date of birth and a date of death being on the same day. It was hard to get my head around that concept and there being no dash between two dates.

Thankfully my baby did live, although only for several months but I hope the government will take urgent action now that they know the shocking statistics to end the agony of stillbirth.

In my recent book ‘Every Family Has One’ there is a traumatic birth scene, inspired by my own experience. Here’s the link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/EVERY-FAMILY-HAS-ONE-Catholic-ebook/dp/B015RUZL7Y/

I’d like to end this blog with a great poem, ‘The Dash’ by Linda Ellis because it’s the one thing that’s absent from the life of a stillborn baby. And one of the most difficult lessons in life is that less is often more. For me it’s the fleeting experiences; experiences that transform us, changing us forever, leaving an emotional imprint; experiences we have that mean so much and live on in our hearts and minds.

I read of a man who stood to speak
at the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on the tombstone
from the beginning…to the end.

He noted that first came the date of birth
and spoke of the following date with tears,
but he said what mattered most of all
was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time
that they spent alive on earth.
And now only those who loved them
know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own,
the cars…the house…the cash.
What matters is how we live and love
and how we spend our dash.

So, think about this long and hard.
Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left
that can still be rearranged.

If we could just slow down enough
to consider what’s true and real
and always try to understand
the way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger
and show appreciation more
and love the people in our lives
like we’ve never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect
and more often wear a smile,
remembering that this special dash
might only last a little while.

So, when your eulogy is being read,
with your life’s actions to rehash…
would you be proud of the things they say
about how you spent YOUR dash?

Euthanasia should be legal

Euthanasia should be legalised. In my role as a funeral celebrant I hear some shocking stories about how people suffer at the end of their life. Death can come suddenly or a person lingers, gradually fading. For some older people, the body weakens while the mind stays alert. Others remain physically strong, but cognitive losses take a huge toll. End of life is a period in which someone deteriorates. This can take days, weeks, months or longer but it’s usually an unpleasant period in someone’s life and actually unnecessary given medical advances. At the end of someone’s life we aim to make this time comfortable, managing pain and distressing symptoms. But there’s only so much we, the families, doctors and nurses can do. Many people still suffer and it’s totally inhumane and barbaric to allow this suffering to happen.
My dad is end of life. He’s barely eaten in months and has lost lots of weight. He says it’s painful on his stomach to eat. He’s confined to a wheelchair and cries because he can’t go out to his favourite cafe. He’s in pain because he has bone cancer and the cancer is spreading. Several months ago he told his social worker that he wanted to go to Switzerland to end his life. Is this an unreasonable request? I don’t think so. It’s his life and why should he suffer? It’s not as if he’ll get better. But the mention of suicide is a red flag to an social worker and doctor and he was immediately prescribed anti depressants which only mask the real situation going on. It is wrong that the state should have the last word on life and death matters and it’s time we took control over our lives.
Those against euthanasia argue that families might put pressure on their loved ones to end their life. Actually the problem is more likely to be the other way around. Families are more likely to try to stop their loved ones ending their life. This has to be an agreement between the patient and the doctor and it has to be decided at the outset when the diagnosis is made and when the patient still has mental capacity. Opponents also put forward many legal obstacles.
This is how I would administer the system: Doctors could conduct a short interview at regular points in a patients life. This could be done when the patient sees the doctor at an appointment and as part of the patient’s health check. The interview would ask some basic questions about whether they want the lethal injection when they reach end of life. Their views can be assessed over their lifetime from 18 years onwards, so that by the time somebody is at end of life, for instance suffering from terminal cancer and in pain they know for sure it’s what the person wants because there has been consistency in their belief over a long period of time.

#metoo hashtag and my experiences of sexual harassment

The #metoo hashtags which blew up all over Facebook and Twitter last week got me thinking. Female solidarity the world over was galvanised by the numerous discussions and heated debate. At last thanks to social media women from all walks of life have been given a platform to come out and share their experiences of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour by men in the work place or simply to put their hand up and be counted. Whether this will lead to change in society, discussion and action in the real world where we take control, meeting and challenging our perpetrators face to face, holding them to account for their behaviour remains to be seen.

When I first saw the hashtag I must admit I dismissed it as left wing claptrap, a bunch of feminists having a rant but the more I thought about it the more I came to realise that I too have been sexually harassed in the workplace and I should have been bold enough to stand up and be counted too, because without collective solidarity society’s attitudes will never change.

I graduated in 1987. Margaret Thatcher, the first female prime minister was in power and things should have changed for women, but they didn’t. The late 80s was a great time to enter the workforce. The economy was expanding and developing and traditional industries were in decline. There were huge opportunities for graduates to make serious money. This was the rise of the financial, service and retail sector. Large retailers cluttered the halls of the university milk round events and I was interviewed by Marks and Spencer, Tesco and Woolworths for their graduation schemes. Eventually though I ended up in credit management and worked for a few years for Amec Engineering.

I worked in the fire engineering department and we maintained the sprinkler systems of companies across the UK. I was based in an office near London Bridge. There were around seventy people working there consisting of draftsmen, project managers, accountants and engineers. There were only three women working there; myself and two secretaries. I found it fun working in a male environment.I didn’t feel intimidated and there was always lots of sexual innuendo and banter going on. When I walked past the draftsmen to go to the loo one of them always whistled or stopped to have a tease about something or one of them would tell me that I had a nice bum.
My boss sat opposite me and there were three other men close by. There was always a lot of sexual banter going on. ‘When’s she going to climb on the step ladder and get a file down so we can see that bum of hers?’ was something they often said. One day my boss and I took the train to Chestnut to visit Tesco head offices. On the train he said through spluttered laughter, ‘now this is the plan. You’ve got to flash your tits at them, then they’ll sign the deal.’ He put his hand on my knee as he said it, giving my knee a little rub. It was all a bit Sid James and at the time I found it amusing but now as I look back I see that it was all inappropriate behaviour.
But worse was to come when I moved into teaching. I didn’t imagine there would be sexual harassment in the teaching profession. It was 1993. I had recently qualified as a history teacher and got offered a full time post at a secondary school along the south coast. Within a few weeks of starting the job I found I was pregnant. I had only recently got married. I waited until I was 14 weeks and then went to see the head. I expected to take maternity leave from around 38 weeks and return to the job after a short maternity leave. The head got up from his desk and went to close the door so that we weren’t overheard. He peered at me and then mockingly said ‘and how do you think you’ll be able to work full time with a baby?’ I explained that I would employ a childminder. He said ‘that’s not a good idea. You’ve no idea what they will be like. Are you prepared to risk your baby’s life?’ I was stunned. He then said ‘how will you be able to stay late for meetings?’ And much worse ‘my wife couldn’t juggle a career and a baby, few women can.’
Incensed I went home that day and wrote to the National Union of Teachers.I told them everything the headteacher had said to me. They called a few days later and seemed very concerned. A representative held a meeting with the headteacher and my department head and then we had a meeting together. The head said that it wouldn’t be possible for me to return to my full time job as a history teacher but he could offer two days a week teaching religious studies or three days a week teaching geography but I would have to apply for these posts. The union rep seemed quite happy with these suggestions and thought the head was being fair.It didn’t seem to register with him that I wanted to teach history. That was what I was employed to teach and that was what I’d been trained to teach, not geography or RE. As I listened to the discussion I wanted to melt away and I was stifling the tears, feeling a sinking sense of helplessness around a table of all men.
Over the course of my career I went for numerous interviews and some of the interviewers blatantly disregarded the sex discrimination legislation. In one of the interviews I was asked if I could drive. I was in the process of learning and didn’t need to drive to be able to do the job. The bus service was very good. I told him that I was learning and he said ‘you need to learn to drive because how do you imagine you will ferry your children to school?’ I was only 22 at the time. Having children was the last thing on my mind! The question was bizarre and unrelated to the job.
Things have moved on a lot since the 1990s but we need to be aware of harassment and inappropriate behaviour and have the courage, as women to report things that aren’t right or make us feel uncomfortable.

Thank you for reading!

An eerie hue to the sky on the 30th anniversary of the 1987 hurricane

It’s exactly 30 years ago that hurricane force winds battered Britain. It’s 3pm and the sky looks eerie. It’s taken on an apricot hue as if a sand cloud is rolling across the sky. Half of the sky is black. The street lights came on at 2.30pm as mothers left for the school run. I ran home from the Cafe Nero worried I would get caught in a rain storm but there were only a few spots. It feels as if there is an eclipse of the sun. The air is exceptionally warm and there’s no wind but yet I have the distinct feeling that a storm is brewing, Orphelia, moving across from the west and maybe it will be worse than in 1987.

I remember the hurricane of October 1987 well. I’d just graduated and was doing voluntary work at The Citizens’ Advice Bureau in Tunbridge Wells. My mum was running a bed and breakfast and I was relegated to the attic room at the top of the house. I had no bathroom and had to wash at work. I couldn’t wait to leave home but I had nowhere else to go.

At about 3am I looked out of my attic window to see the branches of trees bent right over, kissing the land. The sky had the same apricot hue that it has now, as I type. The electricity went out. The headlines at 7am reported that “storms have wrecked havoc across Britain.”

These are some of your memories of the 1987 storm gathered from friends on Facebook:

“Waking up in the middle of the night hearing all the noise. I was 15 so found it more exciting than scary and of course we got the next day off school! My baby brother has just turned 30 so was a wee baby when it happened and he was the only one that slept through it all!”

“The smell of salt water in the air and the wood at the bottom of the field where I lived was matchwood like a giant hand had swiped the trees asunder and in the village slates from roofs sticking in the ground as though thrown like a knife. In the days that followed every electricity worker from across UK were working on the power one van was from Wales . I lived in a timber framed farmhouse it survived without a scratch because it literally moved with the wind . Mother Nature it seems has the last say always.”

“I woke in the early hours and such was the severity of the wind I decided to bring Starsky the rabbit and his hutch inside my kitchen. I chucked on my dressing gown and bent down to lift up the hutch when a wild gust of wind made my dressing gown fly up and wrap itself round my head. I had nothing on underneath.
Later that day my next door neighbour informed me, rather creepily, that he had seen me getting the hutch inside!”

“At the time I was living in Eynsford in Kent. The villlage like so many others around was cut off because of fallen trees. Our old timber cottage from 1640 also survived the devestation. It probably has seen many a bad storm in its time. I was at college at the time and managed (don’t know how) to get into Dartford with my dad as he worked for a timber company and needed to check the premises for damage. Trees around his factory were all gone. Dartford was like a ghost town and college was closed! Scary!”

“The power went off at the local hospital and the backup generator failed temporarily. I remember my flat mate telling me how they had to hand ventilate the babies on the intensive care unit.
Somehow managed to get trains and buses to Bexhill from London (took all day) to check on parents – no mobiles then and landlines down. Remember seeing half the beach on the roads.
Parents had some broken windows from flying pebbles but nothing serious – and they lived about a mile from the sea!”

“A power cut early morning. Was impossible to get to work, so walked for miles just taking loads on photos – was just unbelievable. On the Saturday, the army cleared 90+ fallen trees from our railway line just to the next station !”

“Living up a steep hill surrounded by woods was noisy and scary. I had only gone home for the night as ny boyfriend was on nights and i wanted to see my Mum and Dad. I woke up to the howling wind and immediately seeked refuge in my sisters bedroom floor as her secondary glazing was all fitted and much quieter. I woke in the morning and no way could i get into work, so i walked back to my boyfriends house. First thing he asked was why are you not at work? He had come home earĺy and slept through all of it so it took some convincing what had happened! Poor Sevenoaks and surrounding areas were a bit if a mess. We lost a few branches of our 200 + year old tree in my parents garden and a few odd small trees had snapped so we were quite lucky. If the large ones had gone over to the side, they would have smashed straight into the house.”

“My bedroom was located above a carport and I could feel movement in the walls during the early hours. I had arranged to go to London that day and so got up for an early start to find that there was no power and when I go outside it was difficult to put one foot ahead of the other without doubling up with the power of the wind. Needless to say I never got to London as there was so much tree destruction that it was barely possible to get out of our village. I managed to get to work later that morning, I worked within the Tenanted Trade Department of a local brewery and spent the rest of the day listening to numerous tenants who called the brewery concerning damage to their pubs, mainly chimney’s collapsing and roof damage.”

“I was 10 at the time and lived in Hassocks. I remember going downstairs and my dad and i watched the lounge room window bow in and out. We heard a massive crack and it was a tree falling down in a nearby field.
We had a stream at the end of our 100ft garden and it rose right up to the middle of our garden.
I also remember that we had no power for 10 days and we had to do our spelling homework by candlelight!
We had a gas oven so my mum cooked jacket potatoes for our elderly neighbours. Wow its amazing how much i can remember seeing as i was only 10!”

“Looked out of the window from my third floor flat overlooking West Sutton station to see the damage – a bird’s eye view across the partk. It felt like an apocalypse. The next day I was due to fly to Geneva for work and was glad I hadn’t been in the air when the storm hit – though possibly that would have been safer!”

“The next morning walking to the course I was doing in central London as there was no transport. I saw a massive tree that had fallen over on Albert Embankment. We both were determined to go to where we had to be, not realising that everything was closed and London was deserted. No emails or texts then to tell us to stay home.”

“I remember driving to work from Dagenham to Aldgate on the A13 as no trains. It was surreal – hardly any cars on the road and the big advertisement boards blown down and strewn across the roads, amongst other stuff – correlated roofing etc ”

“I’ve just found my diary from 1987 and can’t believe I didn’t write a single thing about it, other than very rainy, thunder and gales. However, I can remember feeling very scared with the howling of the gales through the new double glazed windows, clenching my duvet and trying to hide under it, wishing I could look out of my bedroom window to see what was going on in the back garden but pitch black as no lighting at night in sleepy Somerset, wanting my mum who was asleep with my dad in the next bedroom (but that would not be ‘cool’ at the age of 21!), feeling even more scared when hearing the glass of my dad’s greenhouse smash in the back garden, and more than anything I desperately wanted to sleep in order to be oblivious to all the noise and wake up in with everyone safe and everything in one piece in the morning. Next day was just a case of my normal five minute drive to work at Barclays Bank in the next town and my parents making an emergency one hour drive to check our our fleet of holiday caravans in Weymouth (fortunately all of ours were safe and standing upright!)”

“I remember my mum saying that when she looked out of a window she saw a rabitt hutch flying through the sky!!! Just hope the poor rabbit had escaped before take off!”

“I was working and living in a pub in Sevenoaks at the time, it was a tall building and my room was of course at the top, didn’t sleep at all, every one else slept through it, went straight down to the Vine in the morning to see the devastation everywhere !! Couldn’t get to my parents house at East Hill, Otford, all cut of with fallen tree”

“I was sitting at a bus stop in Watford Lower high Street, outside Hammonds music store. The Harlequin shopping centre was under construction at the time, it’s tall tower cranes were swaying in the wind like lonely stalks of corn. I watched mesmerized fully expecting one to come down, they didn’t, but boy were they put to the test.The other thing that burns bright in my memory banks, and not much does these days, is a news report from Holland that showed an aerial shot of young lads leaning into the wind on the edge of cliff tops akin to our Dover Cliffs. These idiots were almost horizontal leaning out to sea. What if the wind had suddenly died or ebbed I thought, they’d be goners!”

“I was 15 and remember hearing the wind during the night and waking in the morning to see trees fallen and the best thing was being told that my school would be closed for the day via the radio no mobiles then. My friend and I spent the day exploring the damage in the area I lived at the time Selsdon South Croydon.”

Grief and types of grievers

Grief is the range of human emotions we experience when we lose someone we love who we will never see again because they have died. All hope has gone. There is a finality to the situation. People talk about the fog of grief. It can include negative as well as positive emotions in the form of remembering and maybe seeing it as life altering and a step on the road to a different pattern of life. Grief involves physical pain in the form of heartache, sadness, emptiness, missing the person and never stopping thinking about them or holding thoughts of them close to you. The world feels like a big and scary place without your loved one.

The description above is the collective view of about twenty funeral professionals I met on a grief training course in London, run by Caroline Lloyd who calls herself the Grief Geek and has written a book on grief. This blog is about what I learned on the course; it’s my interpretation of what I learned and what I gleaned from the course and not necessarily a reflection of what Caroline believes or the message Caroline was imparting. You would need to attend the course yourself. I am a funeral celebrant in West Sussex and you can find my website and contact information here: https://beautifulfuneralsussexkent.co.uk and here: http://www.naturaldeath.org.uk/index.php?

When you lose a significant person you love you go through an identity crisis. Who am I now? What is my new identity? You lose your identity in relation to the other person and it’s a confusing time while you reestablish your place within your family, society and friendship circles. As funeral professionals we cannot make assumptions about relationships and it’s best to ask the bereaved what is the hardest part you’re dealing with? What does the loss mean that person? Sometimes we grieve for what we didn’t have in the relationship, unfulfilled expectations, broken promises, and we are now coming to terms with the hurt and pain the person caused us.

As professionals we mustn’t tell someone how we feel, for instance, “I know what it must be like for you.” We don’t know. Don’t hijack another person’s grief. Ask open ended questions and above all listen and emphasise. Our role as funeral celebrants and funeral arrangers can be difficult because often families will turn the deceased into saints and as we deliver the eulogy we are met with confused frowns because some of the mourners don’t recognise the true person we are talking about.The phrase “we all have our own personal feelings about this person” can be useful in the funeral script. We have complicated lives and complicated relationships and we all grieve differently and so will communicate differently. We must never underestimate how debilitating grief is.

It’s better to use phrases such as “I can imagine how you are feeling”, “I’m lost for words” “I’m sorry I don’t know what to say but I’m here to listen.” Use open questions not closed questions. Say something authentic. When I lost my baby my doctor looked at me and said “Life’s a shit.” It was best thing anybody could have said and much better than the harsh words of my aunt “you need to forget it happened and move on to the next pregnancy.”

It is also difficult because we are dealing with a range of people in a family. Sometimes different family members don’t get on, they have different relationships with the deceased, don’t see things in the same way and there can be a grief hierarchy within families; people who think they are more important and who own the grief while sweeping aside the feelings of other members of the family. We need to tread carefully and be sensitive.

The bereaved do not go through stages of grief. There is no order to feelings and emotions as they pop up or engulf us. It is not prescriptive. We must never make assumptions about how someone feels. There is no length of time in the journey of grief either. We are all different. But the person who has received the diagnosis that they have a terminal illness and there is nothing that can be done will go through stages of grief as they come to terms with their diagnosis. The phrases are: 1. Denial/avoidance. We don’t want to accept death. The brains natural instinct is to protect us. We shut down. It’s too much to bear. 2. Hope. We someone think that maybe the doctors are wrong and that all will be well and maybe there are alternative forms of treatment, etc. 3. Guilt. For all the things we haven’t done and said. 4. Sadness and feelings of loss.

When someone dies there is an expectation that you will get over your loss and often we put barriers up and other people think we have got over the person but of course we haven’t. They might ask ‘how are you?’ We reply ‘I’m fine.’ We aren’t truthful. To reveal or feelings doesn’t feel like a safe place to be in but we pay a price by not saying how we feel because we lock our feelings in and this slows our recovery from the pain of loss. As a nation we deal badly with this badly. The First World War changed how we were. Villages lost so many people, whole families. Death was commonplace. There were just too many deaths and so we locked our feelings in. It was too much to cope with. We developed the stiff upper lip. In today’s world we have unrealistic expectations about life. We expect longevity. We expect the medical professionals to cure us.

You don’t get over your loss. The reality is that you learn to grow around your loss. You will and can never be the same again. You learn to live without your loved and carry them with you. They have, in a sense been relocated… to your heart and mind.

Complicated acute grief that goes on for years needs help from a counsellor and doctor because this is not a normal pattern of grief.

Caroline Lloyd discusses the concept of grieving types. She suggests that there are two types of grievers or bereaved: the introvert and the extrovert. Introvert grievers find energy within themselves and use their mind to process their grief. Extrovert grievers are charged up, they blurt out their emotions. Men and women tend to, although we must be careful not to label and make assumptions here, grieve differently. That’s what research has established anyway but maybe the reality is that we act differently each time we lose someone or it will depend who they are and the other things going on in their life. Life is never simple.

Caroline also talked abut what she called intuitive and instrumental grievers. Intuitive grievers are more likely to be women. They are open, chat more about their grief. Instrumental grievers are action based. They might process their grief cognitively, refer to self help books and even benchmark their grief. They try to impose order where there is chaos.

As funeral arrangers and as funeral celebrants being aware of the instrumental and intuitive types is useful because it can help us to help the bereaved in the way they want us to help them. The instrumental and introvert griever will need clear timescales, a more formal and planned approach, no affectionate attitudes or platitudes, hugs. They are often old school. They want professional, friendly but distant. They want the funeral to go to military clockwork. The expect us to be competent, knowledgable on options and choices. They don’t want to know our personal experiences. This isn’t helpful to them.

The intuitive and emotional grievers will obviously expect us to be professional too but they look for a different approach. They find our insight and experiences helpful. They need the box of tissues and to blab. They aren’t stiff and starchy. They reflect and talk about signs like feathers falling and other indicators that the deceased is giving messages to them. They want conversation rather than paperwork and leaflets to take away. They want advice and options.

After the funeral we can signpost the bereaved to useful organisations for help and counselling such as Cruse, Sands and Roadpeace. (Loss due to a road traffic accident)

You can find Caroline Lloyd’s website at https://thegriefgeek.com or why not send her a tweet https://twitter.com/thegriefgeek?lang=en  

Las Vegas shooting from a British viewpoint

Las Vegas is the scene today of slaughter and carnage. Whenever there’s a mass shooting in America I feel deeply saddened, but most of all I feel incensed and I feel deep outrage. Not so much because one screwed up individual has opened fired on innocent lives – although God knows that’s terrible enough – but because the American government has allowed this to happen.

50 people were killed today and more than 400 wounded when a gunman opened fire from his hotel room in the Mandalay. It is the deadliest attack in USA history and the world stands in shock, but it won’t be the last time a mass shooting happens. Until the American government has the strength, resolve, courage and forcefulness to call for a compulsory national firearms amnesty and revoke the second amendment of the American Constitution “the right of the people to keep and bear arms” more lives will be lost.

300 million in America own a handgun. I was horrified to listen to one commentator today say that “the solution to the Vegas shooting is to allow more people to carry guns.” And another commentator said “if we take the gun away they’ll only develop a bomb.” Folk… this is mental, get a grip, step away from your age old attitudes because it’s beginning to wear thin with us over the pond. Guns are responsible for 30,000 deaths in the U.S each year and only 26% support a ban according to a recent Gallup Poll. What is happening to you guys? It seems as though you’ve become numb to mass violence. It’s tragic you say, but then you move on and accept the status quo because that’s the easy thing to do.You believe your politicians when they tell you there’s no solution. You don’t like to be told what to do, you like freedom from the constraints of the state telling you how to live your lives but government ultimately, not the gun will protect you, through a change in the law, putting a halt to these needless, pointless killings.

I loved Las Vegas when I visited the city in the mid 70s and again in 2015. The city had changed out of all recognition in those forty years. I would hate to think that visitors are put off by what has happened but sometimes they are. Las Vegas is a curious party and gambling city rising in the Nevada desert.

My latest novel, “Holiday” is in part set in Las Vegas. It’s a bit Bridget Jones Diary and a bit Bill Bryson. Here are a few quotes.

First glimpse of Las Vegas:

“The dry heat slaps us as we leave the air-conditioned airport and queue for a yellow taxi. It’s an airless heat, the type you get when you open the oven door to a roasting turkey. Small red boulders and palm trees line the route leading from the airport. The Mandalay Hotel glitters in the distance under the intense sun. I can see the replica Statute of Liberty and a Disney Castle and a massive lion in gold. Several tower blocks look like tubes of tin foil.”

Luxor Hotel:

We arrive at our hotel, the Luxor, a black pyramid, gleaming like a giant beetle against a violet sky. It’s like walking into a vast shopping centre, cruise ship, London museum or a multiplex cinema foyer. I can’t decide which. On an upper floor there’s a collection of artefacts from the Titanic. This is a fitting place for the collection because the hotel is titanic in size. Two escalators sweep from the central concourse up to a mezzanine level where there are various eateries. I have never been inside such a gigantic hotel before and we stand in awe, spinning in circles, taking it all in and snapping photos in the dim light, at this spectacular edifice. Blimey and we’ve not even seen our rooms yet. Ray has wandered off, typical of him. There’s a long Disney length queue weaving up and down and around a series of posts. At a quick guess I reckon there are as many as eighty people waiting to check in. Ten members of staff are managing check-in desks.

The whole of humanity in one city:

“From the upper floor I watch as they stream through the stuttering automatic doors. It’s like a bizarre parade of human hippos and whales. There are black jellied creatures with wobbly ripples, little white men with big pot bellies, here for the heart attack grills and the stack of maple pancakes, for this is fat friendly city. They’re puffing and groaning with the weight of their bags, mopping their brows as they join the queue for check-in. It’s a ghastly sight; a pageant of the world’s top repugnants.”

History of Las Vegas:

“Las Vegas was founded in 1905. It was a railroad town linking Los Angeles to Salt Lake City and was a refueling point and rest stop. The Navajo and other American Indian tribes lived here. Work began building the amazing Hoover Dam, bringing labourers and the population mushroomed and boosted the valley’s economy. At the same time casino gambling was legalised. In the 1930s divorce laws were liberalised in Nevada and couples could obtain a quickie divorce after just six weeks residency. These short term residents stayed at ranches taking in paid guests to help make ends meet. The first hotel-casino was built in 1941 to serve an army base. In the 1960s Howard Hughes, the hugely wealthy American entrepreneur, had a buying spree of hotels and other businesses and his presence paved the way for the corporate ownership of hotel-casinos that followed. Today the city is the fastest growing city in the United States and it is estimated that between four thousand and seven thousand people move here each month. Tourism and gaming are the two major employers.”

Here’s the link to “Holiday” and please continue to visit Las Vegas. It’s a great city!

USA: https://www.amazon.com/HOLIDAY-Laugh-out-loud-romantic-Joanna-Warrington-ebook/dp/B01MXYJJ3V/

UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/HOLIDAY-Laugh-out-loud-romantic-Joanna-Warrington-ebook/dp/B01MXYJJ3V/

Paris is not at all romantic says middle aged frumpy woman

The size of the trees gives you an idea of how vast the Eiffel Tower is

Enjoying the beauty of a park in Paris near in Louvre

My teenage girls chatting in a Paris park

Paris is supposed to be the city of love and romance. It’s on the list of the top ten places in the world to propose. Personally I find it anything but romantic. My ex husband proposed at the end of Bognor Pier, a ramshackle Victorian structure stretching out to sea with seagulls squawking and splatting on the wooden planking and where the annual Birdman rally is held. He didn’t have to take me far. We lived a few hundred yards from the pier, in that dreadful rundown town on the south coast, Bognor Regis. Even George V famously said “Bugger Bognor.” But to me Bognor Pier was romantic rather than being crammed into a lift and catapulted high into the sky in a metal monster, the Eiffel Tower.

We went on our honeymoon to Paris but it was so expensive that any hint of romance was dampened down every time it came to paying the bill. A beer along the Champs Elysee – admittedly the hot tourist trap of Paris – cost us £8 and that was 24 years ago. We returned to Paris with friends several years later when I was pregnant with our second child and walking for miles across this big city carrying my weighty load, up and down stairs and steps, was a painful experience and with not a toilet in sight.

Years later I went to Paris with a new partner and yet again the ambience of Paris was anything but romantic. It was 2011, the year that Prince William married Kate Middleton and we wanted to escape the royal wedding fever that engulfed Britain. The weather was very hot in England and as the Eurostar sped through the Kent countryside under a deep blue sky we had regrets about going. A simple day on a British beach with a Whippy ice cream if the weather is beautiful, cloudless and warm is the preferred choice, than trudging the long streets of Paris and battling the Metro. We did the art galleries, the Montmartre and the Notre Dame. We did the Louvre and joined a vast huddle of visitors peering at the Mona Lisa to the exclusion of all the other paintings. I can’t understand the appeal of that painting. An enigmatic smile they tell you..

And when it came to going home we missed the Eurostar and ended up paying £500 to get the next train back and I had to ring my ex husband to ask him to keep the kids an extra night which he didn’t like and gave me a blasting down the phone line.

I took my teenagers to Paris this Summer. We were staying near Disney and I wanted them to see Paris. Several years older and my impression of the city hadn’t changed. I simply find it too big and sprawling. I love the impressive architecture and parks though. You can sit on deckchairs in the park around the Eiffel Tower without getting charged and it’s very relaxing until you fancy a cup of tea and pay £5 for the privilege. Never mind I thought, I have a stash of tea bags in my handbag for such emergency situations but the kiosks in the park refused to give me a humble cup of just boiling water without my buying something.

Of course everybody flocks to the wrought iron lattice tower, the famous icon of Paris, the Eiffel Tower, when they visit Paris. It’s a must. It’s one of the most recognizable structures in the world and the tallest building in Paris. Built as a centre piece for an exhibition to celebrate the centenary of the French Revolution it was designed by Gustave Eiffel. Critics at the time called it ‘the giant smokestack of Paris,’ ‘a hateful shadow of a hateful column of bolted sheet metal.’

Visitors flock to the Eiffel Tower and take lots of pictures. But you can’t actually wander underneath the tower like you could 24 years ago. There are ugly portacabins selling tickets and queues and queues of people waiting to buy tickets to ascend the tower and large metal fences to stop you getting too close without a ticket. Shame really. It had all become a bit too money grabbing for my liking. As non ticket paying visitors we were allowed to wander around the outer perimeter of the tower in the park area; where the grass was so worn with too many feet constantly trampling it and covered in beer bottles with no sight of an attendant picking up the rubbish. Ravens pecked at the dropped food and crisp packets and black men wove over to every visitor jangling chains of miniature souvenir Eiffel towers that nobody actually wanted. They were all too distracted with their selfie sticks and their laughter as they aligned themselves for a distant shot of the tower.

If you like travelling writing with a wry cynical edge you may like to try my book ‘The Catholic Woman’s Dying Wish’ – a relationship saga covering Ireland, Venice, Florence, New York and Dubai.

Here’s the link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/CATHOLIC-WOMANS-DYING-WISH-Humorous-ebook/dp/B014DP7HQW/

 

 

 

Dippy menopausal single mum travels across France

I’m a dippy, menopausal single mum with her head all over the place most of the time so why on earth would I consider driving around France? Driving on the wrong side of the road, getting into a pickle with poor attempts at speaking the language. By the way I scrapped through French at school with a grade 5 in CSE. Yes that’s the worst grade you could get, in case you’re wondering.

Thankfully I have a great sat-nav. That’s all you need these days to travel anywhere, and a teenager keen to learn the lingo. Or so I thought but that didn’t turn out to be the case.

We (myself and two daughters, 21 and 13) set off from our home in Sussex in plenty of time to catch the ferry. I pull away from the kerb chastising myself for not getting the wheels balanced. I know there’s a problem but I tell myself I’m just imagining it. A mile from the ferry the car rumbles along as if we’re off road. My daughters scream ‘stop mother, just stop.’ ‘No, we’ll limp to the ferry, sort it out in France.’ Did I really reach 52 to be this crazy I wonder? We thunder to a halt conveniently beside a tyre company but it’s closed. The tyre is flat. I jump up and down like a wild beast, screeching and hysterical. Fight or flight in a crisis. It’s flight for me. ‘Just get a grip mother. You’re acting like a complete baby,’ screams my 21 year old. She runs off to look for someone to help. I pull out my phone – hyperventilating by this time – to call the RAC, but before I do so I get my priorities right by updating my Facebook status first. ‘About to catch ferry, flat tyre. Will have to miss holiday.’ Nice and dramatic. Should gain me 30 likes if I’m lucky, boost  my fragile ego and help the overall situation in a roundabout sort of way.

The RAC keep me on hold for ages while they check my membership then I give up, lean against the car and bang my head against the hard metal. My daughter, who has spent an hour before we left making herself up and looks glamorous and beautiful and model like returns with a tasty man in tow. I beam. That’ll teach me for criticising her make up routine. It’s certainly paid off this time. While he yanks the tyre off, replacing it with the spare she stares at me. ‘Really mother, why don’t you know how to change a tyre? This is ridiculous it’s so easy.’

The man doesn’t want any money but I insist on him taking £20. He’s saved the day. On the ferry I bump into a friend from Lindfield. The catch up passes the time but I’m not impressed with the coffee machine. I’m given one token which means one cup only. Suddenly I’m missing the generosity of Ikea. Soon we’re in our car again with a postcode to the nearest garage in Dieppe. I get out of the car, painfully aware that car mechanics won’t speak English, or maybe that’s me being a snob assuming that they are all uneducated. But I turn out to be right and the smart receptionist can’t speak any either. I make whirling hand movements like a comedian on stage blended with the odd word in French. I say the odd word, actually it’s mainly please and thankyou in French. The reality is that politeness, while being a good thing doesn’t actually get you very far. When the whirling hand movements are understood I then have to explain balancing with different hand gestures while my daughter is googling what to say.

We wander round Dieppe for a couple of hours and it begins to sink in that this is going to be a very expensive holiday. In fact I end up spending more on this trip that on a trip to the States two years ago. Thanks to the crash in sterling due to the Brexit effect everything is soooo expensive and we’re hungry. I didn’t believe it when my sister, who lives in France warned me. ‘Don’t come over chick. You’ll find it too expensive.’ I went to Vienna several months back and didn’t find that particularly expensive but I have to say it’s expensive for Brits in France right now, so if you’re thinking of going I’d hold fire for now.

Two tyres are fitted; quite why they’ve fitted two I don’t know but the buggers have got away with ripping me off. I’m £264 lighter and the car is running very smoothly on its new Michelin tyres. I would never buy Michelin. It’s always budget tyres for me.

The sat-nav leads us onward to our first Airbnb, just outside Paris in one of the Disney villages, Place de Toscana. Airbnb are becoming a very popular and inexpensive form of accommodation and I highly recommend them. The apartments and houses are always tastefully decorated, furnished and equipped with everything you need.

As we drive we marvel at how smooth the roads are. It’s like driving along a kitchen worktop. Not a pot hole or a seam zigzagging across the road. Clearly there’s no austerity here. What a delight it is. But then the traffic slows and I see why the roads are so well maintained. Looming ahead is a set of tolls. I’d forgotten about their toll system. Of course. The cheeky blighters, expecting to come to our country; not paying a penny to use our roads and charging us through the nose to use their roads. Huh! Instantly I’m pissed off. My daughter feeds the machine with the correct amount, about 3.70 in Euros but the barrier doesn’t go up. ‘What the hell,’ she protests. A lady pops out of the booth and rambles on in French. We realise that we must put a card in, not cash but this wasn’t made clear. Card inserted, out, barrier up we drive on but I’m seriously wound up. The meal in Dieppe, a pizza between three of us – having to share because of the price, and now 3.70 euros down the drain.

I shall get my money back. I swerve the car. Get out. A man in the car behind shouts in English ‘get yourself together lady.’ I feel like screaming at him but instead I dash between several lines of traffic to get back to the lady in the booth. She comes out of the booth, a look of horror across her face and screams at me; something in French, probably ordering me back to my car; it’s dangerous and waves her hand at me to go away. I’m in front of her screeching for her to give me my money back. Heck, why am I doing this? It’s only three euros. It isn’t worth it, but then I forgive myself for I’m menopausal woman and I have an excuse and my behaviour is outside of my control. ‘Just give me my money back’ I scream. Even I’m embarrassed by my dreadful behaviour. I’m dreading returning to the car to suffer the comments of my waiting daughters. ‘Non compendi’ the woman screams back and continues to wave her hands. I give up, nearly get killed by a car speeding off. ‘Oh well,’ I tell the girls. ‘It was only E3.70. Could have been worse.’

We drive for miles and I begin to think actually E3.70 to cover so many miles is quite a fair deal but then another set of tolls appears like a mirage on the landscape. And this time it isn’t a mere E3.70. It’s E19.70. I’m completely disgusted, furious even. These tolls are eating into my daily budget allowance of £60 a day. At this rate we won’t be able to afford to breath in France. ‘It’s definitely cash this time mother,’ daughter says and it seems that she’s right. She fumbles for my purse, gathers the money, feeds the machine but the barrier doesn’t budge. ‘Oh my God, it’s card only.’ Jeez ……

More on my French antics very soon!

I am the author of ‘Holiday’ which is currently running high in the Amazon charts and is only 99p. Yes, I don’t believe in ripping people off!

Link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/HOLIDAY-Laugh-out-loud-romantic-Joanna-Warrington-ebook/dp/B01MXYJJ3V/